Thursday, October 30, 2014

Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon

An Early Graphite Drawing of the "Personal Icon" series, “Flash” directly references my childhood

Ming, the Merciless has captured Dale Arden and Flash Gordon. “Flash” has been or is about to be tortured. As a ten year old - hopeless science fiction addict and gay boy (though if you had asked, I would not have been able to tell you why I was titillated) - I watched every episode with bated breath, hoping to see Buster Crabbe stripped to his somewhat revealing shorts. However, this 32” x 40” graphite drawing was made in 1978 at age 33 as part of the series of personal icons I created during the decade 1975 to 1985.* As one of the earlier drawings the technique is less skilled than the later works. In 1978 I was using the jet black pencil point directly on the paper whereas beginning in 1980 the blacks and most grays were laid in using powdered graphite and cloth, rubbed into place, and subtracted from to expose lighter grays and white where necessary. So, this drawing has a more heavy-handed appearance than the later artworks. However, this less defined, and to me somewhat awkward work is in keeping with the quality of the original photograph. Like the drawing the photo was also a bit fuzzy and looked as though it might have been made from an actual frame of the original, already fading film, which was of extreme contrast.*2 At the time I was striving for a Photo Realistic quality though I don't think it was quite realized in this particular drawing.

A Bit of Meta Criticism

I've had friends tell me that I am too self-deprecating when critiquing my own work. However, the artist always knows his/her own flaws better than any viewer, and that includes all art critics who sometimes dis an artwork thinking they understand its flaws.

Two Notes

*In 1978 Buster Crabbe was seventy years old, my current age, and in five years my icon would be dead.

*2 The film series has since been cleaned digitally and is preserved in the Library of Congress, National Film Registry as a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" film series. And, I bet I am just one of many gay men of my generation who grew up with Buster Crabbe as one of their heroes and/or icons.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Meryl Streep Portrait: Part VIII

The Finish

The acrylic painting of Meryl Streep is complete but not installed. Due to miscommunication she is languishing against the north wall, and looking out the huge “Windows On Queen,” in Characters Pub in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. However, it is my understanding that she will be installed when Joe and I next visit Lancaster. We will celebrate with another fabulous dinner at Chef and owner, Meghan Young’s restaurant. Of course Dr. more-and-more-dyslexic-gasbag put the panels together backwards and the entire thing had to be taken apart and put together again. Ah well, the joys of old age! At least I can still draw, paint, laugh at myself, and take nourishment, occasionally all at once. Never the less I’m pleased with the final result, and I actually like the Meryl Streep portrait better than last year’s Leonardo Dicaprio portrait. She is bolder both in color and composition. Also, the abstraction of the hair worked out especially well. I debated changing the color of the background, but I am happy that I decided to stay with the black, which is not black. Instead it was made from red, green, magenta and blue, and depending on the number of layers it appears to be navy blue and or black in spots as one approaches the painting closely.

What's Next?

I’ve already begun to think about the new painting to go on the wall across from the bar in Windows On Queen. Instead of another 5 by 7 & ½ foot painting I will do a triptych, three 3 x 4 foot panels attached, hung as one 4 by 9 foot horizontal unit. However, each panel will be of a different character. I will have to consult with Meghan as to which characters are to be used. Perhaps three characters from the world of pop music this time. We’ll see.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Meryl Streep Portrait: Part VII

Okay, I finally finished the sixth and last panel of the 5 & ½ x 7 foot painting yesterday. This is the finished panel (taken with my cell phone).

The day before yesterday I had bought a new drill to make the holes in the frames in order to fasten the entire thing together once we are at Characters. I drilled one hole in the back of the first two panels and the drill quit! A-a-a-a-a-a-r-r-r-r-r-r-g!

This photo shows the back of the two panels with the drill bit stuck in the frames. I took the drill back to the store and replaced it with another of different manufacture and charged it over night. I’ve tested it and it works this morning. So, we will see if I am able to get through 17 more holes. I will do the drilling as soon as I post this. I think Murphy’s Law should be enshrined as an actual scientific reality!*

*Murphy’s Law – “If anything can possibly go wrong, it will!”

Friday, October 10, 2014

Meryl Streep Portrait: Part VI

Panels column b/row 2 and column a/row 3 are done!

Panel Row 3, column a

Panel Row 2, column b

I have one panel to go. As the artist, I have to admit the work is getting better as I progress. The risk-taking quotient has gone up as I continue the work. I’m more and more willing to break free of the pencil mapping I do in order to make sure each panel conforms to the others.*1 The mapping is a must for two reasons; 1) to make sure all the pieces of color line up from one section to another, and 2) Meryl won't look like Meryl if the drawing isn't absolutely correct. However, I am able to take creative risks with blending wet paint passages with several colors mixed to create skin textures that I was not willing to take in the first three panels. I am enjoying the conflict that process creates between the flat areas of color and the more nuanced textured sections of thick paint. In other words the battle between thin and fat paint works in this 5 by 7 & 1/2 foot portrait painting. *2

I probably won’t have time to go back through the panels and make corrections because I have but four workdays left to complete the final panel. The panel is only mapped about three quarters. So, I won’t begin to paint until tomorrow. And, the work will be interrupted by travel to Philadelphia for doctor appointments for my husband’s eyes. I will post photographs of the completed painting when it is finished and installed in the banquet facility at Characters Pub in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania in two weeks.


*1 mapping - in drawing the term is used to denote the exact draftsmanship necessary to create a perfect likeness. Mapping is often done with the squaring technique (modern jargon - the grid) invented by the ancient Greeks for transferring a small drawing to a large wall as in a mural.

*2 flat (thin) versus fat – I am working in acrylics here, however, fat and thin are terms used to refer to heavy thick oil paint and thinner flat oil paint – fat because of all the oil in the thick paint, flat because of turpentine or other thinner added to the paint to flatten it out. Working in acrylics with fat and thin means using no water versus more water to thin the paint, and moving very fast with heavy gooey paint application so that colors will mix together with brushwork on the canvas before they harden.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Meryl Streep Portrait: Part V

Panel Row #2, Column #2 finished

Once again, this panel took longer than expected. There are two weeks left to finish two more panels, and so far it has taken a week and one half to finish each of the first four panels. Why do I do this to myself in retirement? The alter ego tells me it is necessary to keep an edge on, and old age at bay, at least for the time being.  However, I think that is wishful thinking.

The paint I pre mixed has gotten too thin over time, so it was necessary to double coat everything rather than struggle to mix new colors to match. There are now 18 pre mixed colors, and 6 new colors mixed on the palette where needed in this panel. There were also several colors mixed on palette that were used in previous panels. Fortunately I am still able to mix to match almost exactly based on sight alone. One of these colors was a lighter version of the pre mixed tan. I had to mix it again in order to give the nose more dimension. On the computer manqué the nose looks too flat. In these large panels it does not.*

I will have to touch up several spots where the paint is still too thin, but over all I am extremely pleased with these panels. They match precisely around the edges so that when assembled the five and one half by seven foot painting will be almost seamless. As stated before, it is necessary to work on these thirty by thirty inch panels because the painting must be transported in our car, and because the studio is too small to allow for larger canvases. Someday, I’d like to convert the garage into a second studio so there is space for larger paintings. However, the advantage of this procedure is that the panels can also be hung separately, individually, or in groups of two. Though there are only four of the six panels finished - and two of these panels are propped up on the wall - one can easily recognize Meryl Streep in them.

So, Tomorrow I move on to the bottom two panels and Meryl's mouth. There will be at least 10 new colors, various reds to be mixed.


* manqué - here I am referring to the “inferior” computer generated image I made to use as a guide in making the painting. It is of necessity inferior to the final painted version as it is so small compared to the 5 x 7 & 1/2 foot painting, and the color is flat and vastly inferior to the painterly quality of the fished artwork.